More than 70 percent of the land in Transylvania County is public forestland. In fact, the word “Transylvania” means “across the forest.” Our county is unique, truly, in that there are more different kinds of public lands here than anywhere else. We have national forests, recreational forests, a national park, game lands, a state park and a soon-to-open state forest, all in one county.
There are three main forests in Transylvania County: The Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest in the northern part of the county, DuPont State Recreational Forest in the southeastern part of the county, and Gorges State Park in the southwestern part of the county.
The Blue Ridge Parkway also bisects Pisgah along the northern edge of Transylvania County, and the city of Brevard has created the Bracken Mountain Preserve, a 7.1-mile trail system that connects the city of Brevard directly to Pisgah National Forest. Another park, Headwaters State Forest, is currently in development. The project will ultimately conserve more than 7,000 acres of working forestland and be a destination more for wildlife viewing and a backcountry experience, with little trail development.
Transylvania’s extensive woodlands create countless opportunities for mountain biking and road cycling. Please enjoy our public lands responsibly: many of the trails are multi-use and are open to hikers and equestrians. Bikers yield to all other users and extra caution should be used near horses. Proper etiquette has riders dismounting and communicating with horse owners.
It’s important to remember that our public lands are actively managed forests and there is more going on than just people recreating. At any given time there may be hunting groups, logging operations, military training ops, wildlife studies, bike races, commercial users and even controlled burns. Be aware of what is going on around you while visiting our woods. Pay attention to signage, trail closures and, most importantly, your footing while exploring our waterfalls. People die every year exploring here; usually they lose their footing. Stay at the bottom of waterfalls, always let someone know where you are going and take a map.
Most importantly, have fun! isgah is the most visited national forest in the country and receives the most amount of rainfall. It takes up about 50 percent of our beautiful county and has more singletrack waiting for exploration than you can hike or bike.
PISGAH NATIONAL FOREST
Pisgah is home to some of the best rock-climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and hiking in the country and arguably the world.
• More waterfalls than can be listed, including Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock
•160,000 acres with 172 miles of legal mountain bike trails
•Home to two of the first Wilderness areas in the eastern U.S., Shining Rock and Middle Prong
•Location of the first school of forestry in the country
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
The Blue Ridge Parkway creates a natural border at the county line – cradling a huge chunk of Pisgah National Forest. Throughout the year it gets a lot of visitors, more than any other national park in the country. The peaks, waters and trails within its boundaries are protected forever. A through-hike trail, the Mountains to Sea, runs along the Parkway crest, passing over several 6,000-foot peaks, through balsam forests and through some of the coldest creek water you ever stepped in. It is a real treat to be able to ride a bike on the Parkway. It is well maintained and has a low motor speed limit, which makes cruising the Parkway one of the best experiences in the Transylvania County. In the winter, when some argue is the best season for any kind of riding in western North Carolina, the Parkway closes for miles at a time, giving cyclists the rule of the road.
•Spectacular road biking with 360 degree views at times
•469 miles long, runs from North Carolina to northern Virginia
•Riding the Parkway is one of the best cycling experiences in the county
GORGES STATE PARK
Gorges State Park lies on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, on the border with South Carolina in the southwest part of the county. This part of the county is the wettest, with an average recorded rainfall that rivals Seattle. There are four main rivers that form the gorges that give the park its namesake. When the water is high these rivers draw boaters out for Class V+ whitewater runs, but when it’s low the fishing down there is about as close to wilderness as you can get. There’s not much mountain biking out here yet, but there are some good gravel miles.
•Named by National Geographic as one of “50 of the World’s Last Great Places” in 2012
•Access to the Horsepasture River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River
•Foothills Trail, a 77-mile through-hike trail crosses the park
•Currently developing trails for mountain biking
•8,000 acres with over 22 named waterfalls
BRACKEN MOUNTAIN PRESERVE
Bracken Mountain is Brevard’s own trail system right outside of downtown, with a couple of loop options and three of its own trails on the property. Hikers and bikers can also connect to Pisgah through a forest service road all the way to the fish hatchery. Bracken has some educational kiosks scattered around the trail, so visitors can learn a bit about the history of the land and the ecology of the forest. A local trail contractor, Todd Branham, who owns Long Cane Trails, donated countless hours to the development of this trail system, and, along with many local volunteers, made the network possible.
•7.1 miles of city owned multi-use singletrack
•Featured in the Pisgah Stage Race
•Established in 2012. 400 acres in total
•Built by more than 75 local volunteers
•Directional bike-only jump lines in planning stages
DUPONT STATE RECREATIONAL FOREST
As far as mountain biking goes in DuPont, the place is like a skate park. What it lacks in elevation it makes up for in fun factor. The soil is different in this part of the county, with more sand coming to the surface. This makes for a completely different riding experience in some parts of the forest. It is also a wonderful place to take new hikers and young kids out for some easy-access waterfall tours. DuPont is growing too, having just received an additional 800 acres from a private land donation.
•Unique granite domes are uncommon in this part of the country
•DuPont State Forest was established in 1996
•A better alternative to Pisgah for new riders or when there has been rain
•Convenient access to popular waterfalls such as Triple Falls and Hooker Falls
•Filming location for movies such as “The Last of The Mohicans” and “The Hunger Games”